Ah, the basic ingredients we take for granted! Flour for cakes and breads that did not depend on adding yeast, today on every grocery store shelf, was once unheard of. Here’s the scoop–
Prior to 1845 the only raising agent used in bread was yeast, which spoiled rapidly. This meant that soldiers and sailors, particularly, had to consume bread and biscuits that were unleavened (and thus hard to chew) and would become inedible. Jones said it was concern for servicemen, just as much as profit, which prompted him to develop his invention.
Henry Jones, a baker and confectioner in Broadmead, Bristol, invented the mixture of flour with chemical leavening ingredients (baking soda and salt) added in, patenting it in 1845. Jones said it was concern for servicemen, just as much as profit, which prompted him to develop his invention. He then strove to convince the British Admiralty that although a diet of “maggots, weevils and mouldy biscuits” may have suited Nelson’s crews, only good bread, decently baked, would satisfy a modern seaman. As logical as this sounded, there was resistance to replacing the standard “hard tack.”
Luckily, Jones’s cause was quickly championed by Florence Nightingale, who could see the advantage in soldiers and sailors enjoying a decent diet, and Jones also got a warrant from Queen Victoria to supply the royal household. An article in The Lancet in 1846 praised Jones Patent Flour for its “contribution to public health and to the daily comfort of the masses.”
Henry Jones was fortunate amongst inventors in that he actually made a small fortune from his ingenuity, and then another tidy sum with his arrowroot biscuits, which were cheap and hugely popular. Well done Mr. Jones!